In October 2014, the UK parliament voted in favor of recognizing Palestine. The vote followed a landslide in opinion, likely to have been caused by alternative media, some of which noted a several hundred-fold increase in readers who were seeking information on the Palestine – Israel discourse during the 2014 Gaza war. Meanwhile, mainstream media were bleeding viewers, listeners and readers.
The UK parliament’s vote in favor of the recognition of Palestine in October 2014, came almost 100 years after Britain, in 1917, signed the controversial Balfour declaration. Hollow as the recognition may be, without actionable political change, the vote was in more than one regard a historical moment. The importance of the recognition is modified by the fact that less than half of the 650 members of the House of Commons and no member of the Cabinet participated in the vote. The significance of the recognition by the permanent Security Council member and former mandate power ought, however not to be underestimated. It may be one of the first incidents in which new, alternative or independent media have influenced a discourse against a dominant mainstream media lobby to such a degree that a political change and decision of international bearing was facilitated by them.
The systematic Dehumanization of Palestinians and Arabs by Hollywood and the Misrepresentation of the Palestine – Israel Discourse by Mainstream Media.
Dr. Jack Shaheen looked at more than one thousand movies from the oldest in the archives of Hollywood to the greatest “Blockbuster” movies up to 2001. Shaheen concluded that almost 25% of all Hollywood movies, in one way or the other, vilify, denigrate and dehumanize Arabs, and in particular Palestinians. In both his book and the documentary entitled ”Real Bad Arabs. How Hollywood vilifies a People”, Shaheen draws special attention to the Disney cartoon “Aladdin” as example. The movie has been viewed by hundreds of millions of children and adults all over the world. Be it on the big screen or as pirate copy of a DVD. Shaheen notes that the theme song is setting the stage for the dehumanization of Arabs, saying;”Where they cut off your ear if they don’t like your face; It’s barbaric, but hey, it’s home”. People worldwide are being coached into believing that ”Arabland” is a place where women have to live in fear of having their hand amputated because they forgot to pay at the market. People worldwide are being coached into believing that Arabland is the place where imbecilic oil Sheiks rape women, white, Caucasian women of course. Arabland is the place from where mad terrorists spread throughout the world, blowing themselves up for no apparent reason shouting Alahu akber or long live Chairman Mao. Shaheen’s conclusion, that some 25% of Hollywood movies vilify, denigrate, demean or dehumanize Arabs is staggering. However, a similar bias, if not an even more prevalent one, can be observed in western mainstream media. That is, in US, Canadian and Western European mainstream media, Israeli media included.
The editor-in-chief of the International Middle East Media Center (IMEMC), Saed Bannoura, commented on the western mainstream media’s coverage of the Palestine – Israel discourse, saying:
”Well, it’s an unfortunate reality that most of the international media agencies are largely corporate-owned and line-up with corporate lobbies. Therefore, their coverage is poor to none, regarding Palestine issues, especially when it comes to Palestinians rights”. Making matters worse is the fact that Jewish lobbies have virtually absolute dominance over the media in the U.S., in Canada and in may other western nations. Less than 2% of the U.S.’ population, for example, is Jewish. However, the majority of the U.S.’ media are owned and controlled by Jewish U.S.’ citizens. One does not have to be a ”conspiracy theorist” to recognize that the massive dominance over mass media by a small religious minority will strongly bias any discourse in the favor of that group.
Selective moral disengagement, as demonstrated by Albert Bandura, is more likely to occur when those who will be suffering it’s consequences don’t belong to one’s family, ethnicity, religious community or nationality. Bandura built, among others, a strong argument for selective moral disengagement as being one of the steps towards engaging in terrorism. In ”Understanding Terrorism”, Albert Bandura argues that mass media are the strongest means of influencing a political discourse, and argues that terrorist acts would be less effective without mass media coverage. Another aspect worth consideration is the psychology of the self. Even though psychologists argue about the primacy of the individual vs that of the cultural self, it is generally understood that both of them have a significant bearing on decision-making, including political, moral ethical as well as criminal decision-making processes. Identification with a social, religious or cultural group, be it a Jewish, a Christian, a Muslim, a Buddhist, Marxist, Fascist, or any other one particular cultural or social group has a bearing on moral engagement vs, disengagement and decision-making processes. Considering this as established facts, one does not have to be an ”anti-Semite” or even an ”anti-Zionist” to understand that the concentration of a majority ownership over media, either in one country or internationally, in the hands of a small minority, will strongly bias any reporting that is of consequence for this particular group.
The distribution of media ownership in the United States should demonstrate why ”it is an unfortunate reality that the coverage of Palestine, especially with regards to Palestinians rights by corporate media is poor to none”, as IMEMC editor-in-chief Saed Bannoura put it. ABC is owned by Sidney Beck, who appointed Robert Irer as President, both are Jewish. Irer has since moved on to Disney. The Disney that created “Aladdin”. CBS is owned by Murrey Rothstein a.k.a. Sumner Redstone. CNN is owned by Edgar Bronfman, who also owns Time Magazine and Warner Brothers. Both Rothstein a.k.a. Redstone and Bronfman are members of the Jewish minority in the USA. NBC is owned by Brian Roberts who comes from a Jewish family that owns the Comcast Corporation. Roberts appointed Jeff Zukker, who also belongs to the Jewish minority in the U.S.’ as NBC President. Newsweek is owned by the Jewish Meir Grand family, and the New York Times is owned by the predominantly Jewish Salzberger family. The U.S. News and World Report is owned by Jewish Morten Zuckerman. The list could be continued. It would be difficult to find any social scientist with integrity who would argue that the concentration of a majority media ownership in the hands of a religious or cultural minority with strong affiliation to a foreign nation, Israel, would not strongly bias media coverage on relevant issues. This bias particularly influences the media coverage of the Palestinian – Israeli discourse, but it also influences any other discourse toward the most prevalent view or position that is held within that minority community. There is no need for conspiracy for that to occur.
Mainstream Media bled Viewers, Listeners and Readers during the 2014 Gaza War.
The foundations of the corporate mainstream media’s house of cards are increasingly being undermined by new, independent or alternative media. This trend, away from the mainstream to the new, alternative or independent, apparently reached critical mass with regards to forming public opinion about the 2014 Gaza war in the United Kingdom and beyond. The independent nsnbc international registered a moderate increase in the number of daily readers during the Gaza war, but registered a significant increase in the number or read articles about Palestine. The International Middle East Media Center, which specializes on covering Palestinian issues, registered a several hundred-fold increase in readers and red articles. IMEMC editor-in-chief, Saed Bannoura reported to nsnbc: ”Our readership increased from two million hits per month to ten million hits (500%). We have seen more and more reprints of our articles, and also, Abby Martin of Russia Today (RT), was repeatedly quoting from IMEMC’s website, our statistics, and our reports in her TV coverage”.
U.K.’ media would report that there has been a landslide in opinion about the Palestine – Israel discourse in the population. This landslide in opinion has, arguably, been possible because U.K.’ mainstream media like the BBC or the guardian had to follow, there where independent, new and alternative media led. Corporations react to the loss of market shares and were, arguably, aware that they bled many of their viewers, listeners and readers. So as not to lose even more of those who had become aware, that the reporting they get from the mainstream and the reporting from those independents who often have people on the ground is literally ”worlds apart”. Arguably, it is this adjustment, even though it was only a minor adjustment from the side of the BBC, the guardian and other U.K.’ media, that has created the basis for the landslide in public opinion that made the yes vote for the recognition of Palestine by the House of Commons possible. The U K’s recognition of Palestine may, arguably, be significant because it may be one of the most significant incidents so far, in which independent, new, or alternative media have influenced a political discourse that has been entrenched for decades, so as to lead to a political decision of international consequence. It is noteworthy that IMEMC’s website was ”taken down” by a DoS hacker attack on the day after the UK parliament’s vote and only two days after an article on media harassment by intelligence agencies and corporations noted that IMEMC could be a potential target. Facebook responded to the sharing of that article in Facebook groups by “restricting” the authors Facebook account so he could no longer share it in groups. Frightened dogs bite.
Dr. Christof Lehmann an independent political consultant on conflict and conflict resolution and the founder and editor in chief of nsnbc, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.